Counter-Terrorism: The Cancer Spreads In The Caucasus

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October 6,2008:  There's another war, with Islamic radical involvement, brewing in the Caucasus. Ingushetia, which is between Chechnya and North Ossetia, has, for years, been catching the overflow of violence from Chechnya. That mess arose when the Chechens tried, throughout the 1990s, to maintain their independence from Russia. But the Chechens could not govern themselves, and the place became a hideout for numerous criminal gangs. These guys started a kidnapping, robbery and extortion crime wave all over southern Russia.

In 1999, Russia invaded, to reassert its authority. Several years of bloody fighting followed, until a majority of the population agreed to shut down the gangs. For the last few years, Chechnya has been at peace, at least by local standards. But many of the criminals and Islamic militants fled to neighboring "republics" (as the semi-autonomous ethnic enclaves in Russia are called). Mainly Ingushetia to the east, and Dagestan to the west. Dagestan was able to handle the influx of Chechen gunmen. But in Ingushetia, the violence keeps getting worse. This year, the deaths are running at about 30 per 100,000 population. That's three times what it is in Afghanistan, and more than twice what it is in Iraq. Some of the violence is just criminal activity, because tiny (population half a million) Ingushetia has an unemployment rate of over 50 percent. But there are also Islamic radicals who used to operate in Chechnya. And then there are a lot of gun in the hands of the population, so it's often difficult to tell who shot who and why.

The Russian government blames a lot of the unrest on the local government which, while pro-Russian (and run by a former KGB official) is generally inept and corrupt. As these things go, the national government won't intervene unless the gangs based in Ingushetia began raiding into southern Russia.

 


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